Curious Kids: Do Worms have Tongues?
Hannah Nicholas, 2 Nov 17
       

Worms do have something in their mouth that they can poke out, like a tongue. It is called a stylet. Flickr/DJ SINGH, CC BY-SA

This is an article from Curious Kids, a series for children. The Conversation is asking kids to send in questions they’d like an expert to answer. All questions are welcome – serious, weird or wacky!


Do worms have tongues? - Ren Ashley, age 3, Melbourne.


That’s a really interesting question, Ren. The short answer is no. Worms do not have tongues.

Some people think that worms have tongues because certain worms do have something in their mouth that they can poke out, like a tongue. It is called a “stylet” and it looks like a needle.

Worms that eat plants pierce the outside of the plant with their stylet. They then use the stylet like a straw, to suck out food from inside the plant. But the worm’s stylet isn’t actually a tongue.

A worm’s stylet is not technically a tongue.  Flickr/wintersoul1, CC BY

Since you were curious enough to ask the question, I imagine you would be interested to know a bit more about worms and about tongues.

You have probably seen worms in the soil in your garden, or maybe your family has a worm farm, where worms eat up your fruit and vegetable scraps. These worms are called earthworms.

But they are not the only kind of worm. In fact there are many thousands of different creatures that we call worms. Some worms are so tiny that you need a microscope to see them. Other worms are very big. One type of worm, called the bootlace worm, lives in the sea and can grow to be as long as an Olympic swimming pool!

This flatworm, called Nymphozoon orsaki, lives in the sea.  Flickr/budak, CC BY

So how do all these worms live without a tongue? To answer this question, we need to think about what a tongue does.

What does a tongue do?

One of the important jobs of our tongue is to crush up food when we are eating. Inside our tongue is a set of muscles. These muscles let our tongue move food around in our mouth. Our tongue crushes food by squashing it up against the hard part at the top of our mouth.

Tongues help animals crush up food. AAP Image/NEWZULU/MIKE GEE, CC BY

Like us, worms need to crush up their food. But instead of using a tongue, worms have muscles in their gut that do this.

Another important job of our tongue is to taste food. Our tongue is covered in tiny bumps. Inside those bumps are taste buds that can sense whether the food we are eating is sweet or salty or sour or bitter. That can help us work out if a food might be dangerous.

Sign in to view full article

       
How and Why We are Moving Beyond GDP as a Measure of Human Progress
How we track our economy influences everything from government spending and taxes to home lending and business investment. In our ...
Tani Shaw
Thu, 5 Jan 17
The Future of Online Advertising is Big Data and Algorithms
The challenge facing advertisers and advertising professionals is remaining relevant in the face of a fundamental technological change. Namely, algorithms ...
Rob Livingstone
Tue, 4 Apr 17
Does Playing Chess Make You Smarter? A Look at The Evidence
The stereotype of the chess player is someone who is smart, logical and good at maths. This is why so ...
Giovanni Sala, Fernand Gobet
Wed, 17 May 17
Why Women Make The Best Stock Traders
Female traders can be far more selective, as they spend more time evaluating before making a trade and have a ...
Peter Swan
Thu, 9 Mar 17
Why are We More Likely to Get Cancer as We Age?
This article is part of our series on older people’s health. It looks at the changes and processes that occur ...
Stuart Pitson
Wed, 1 Feb 17
An Epoch Times Survey
An Epoch Times Survey
An Epoch Times Survey
Sports Elements
Read about Forced Organ Harvesting
Sports Elements